This has been a Passover that Leo Weiss will never forget. He hopes that it's also one that his grandchildren never forget.
Weiss, his brother and sister all survived the Holocaust. For decades, none of them talked about what happened in the concentration camps because "it was still too painful to recall." But Weiss, the "baby of the family" at 83, decided that "we had to tell the story. Not for us; for our children and our grandchildren and their children still to come. Although we're all still relatively healthy, we're getting up there [in years], and we could not die without letting people know what happened so that it would never be allowed to happen again."
Weiss, who lives in Minneapolis, arranged a seder in Winnipeg, the city where they relocated after World War II. For the first time in nearly 40 years, the entire family -- Wiess, his brother Philip, 86, and sister Erna Kimmel, 88, all their children and grandchildren -- gathered for Passover.
"Passover is a celebration of the liberation of the Jews from slavery," he said. "This year it was a celebration of our liberation, too."
Like many families, they held seders on the first two nights of Passover, which began last Saturday and ends at sundown Sunday. At the first seder, the three survivors shared their stories. On the second night, their children and grandchildren shared their reactions to the stories.
"It was such an emotional thing," he said. "The children all professed their love for us and their understanding of what we were doing and assured us that they will carry our legacy with them."
His story is not easily forgotten. The family, which lived in Poland, was split up by the Nazis. He escaped from his concentration camp by persuading a guard that he had been assigned to a work detail outside the compound.
"It took guts, " he admitted of his ploy. "But they were liquidating us. In the distance, we could hear the cannons from the approaching Russian troops, and we knew they were going to kill us, anyway, before the Russians got there. By trying to break out, I figured that at least I could do something about it."
He spent 10 days hiding in a barn that turned out to be right on the battle line. "One day the Russians would have control of it, the next day the Germans were there," he said. "Then one day, we saw the Russian army marching in, and we knew that we had been liberated."
He did a stint in the Soviet army as a medical assistant. When the family reunited after the war, they applied for sanctuary "in every country that would take us. Canada was the first one that responded, and we left immediately. We couldn't wait to get out of there."
That was 60 years ago. "But I still remember it vividly," he said. "The date was 11 February, 1948. After 10 days on a ship, we arrived in Halifax, Canada, on the most glorious day ever. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the hills were covered with bright snow. It was a magnificent sight. It was like coming out of hell to paradise."Powerbroker
For the second year in a row, Rabbi Hayim Herring has made the list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America.
Herring is executive director of STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal), a Twin Cities-based organization that helps synagogues deepen their connections with the Jewish community through innovative programs and leadership development.
The list, published by Newsweek, rated rabbis on a series of criteria, including "Are they considered leaders in their movement?" and "Have they made an impact on Judaism in America?"
Herring said he was proud to be on the list, but not for personal reasons. "It's good for STAR and the work we are doing, which is what matters to me," he said.Scholars wanted
Prince of Peace Lutheran School has launched an aggressive scholarship program. The K-8 school in Spring Lake Park is offering 30 academic scholarships to new students for the 2008-2009 school year.
"The only requirement is a willingness to achieve within a nurturing, Christ-centered environment," the school said. For more information, contact Sandie Miller at 612-308-1810 or email@example.com.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392